NFC North: Kyle Orotn
"He's like everybody: A little bit in shock."
That's how Chicago general manager Jerry Angelo described the initial reaction from quarterback Jay Cutler upon completion of Thursday's historic trade. And if I didn't know any better, I'd say Angelo was still a bit stunned himself as he conducted an evening teleconference.
|The Broncos traded Jay Cutler to the Bears.|
I'm guessing that when Angelo woke up Thursday morning, he had no idea he would acquire a quarterback that would end the Bears' organizational drought at the position. He couldn't have predicted that with one mid-afternoon decision, he could upend his reputation as a conservative talent evaluator who eschewed bold moves in favor of developing his drafted players.
"Really, it came together unexpectedly," Angelo said. "... This is the first time for me. You look at the history of the league. I can't recall a situation quite like this. How it matriculated and came to the point it got to, I can't answer to any of that. All we did is react to a situation that we felt could help our football team."
The Cutler drama has played out for more than a month, and so Angelo has had plenty of time to think rationally and thoroughly about the issue. But when Denver announced that Cutler was on the trading block this week, Angelo reacted with a swiftness and aggression he has rarely displayed since the Bears hired him in 2001.
The Bears performed background work on Cutler's history of immaturity, but Angelo said they didn't speak to him directly until after the trade agreement. With at least three other teams hounding the Broncos, there wasn't time to dally. A man who has always cherished his draft picks increased his offer to a staggering two first-round picks, plus a third-rounder, to drop everything and follow his gut instinct.
"The rarity of this opportunity made it unique," Angelo said. "Really, being in this situation as long as I have, you just know when things are right. Part of it is ... feeling you've done a lot of homework. And we talked internally quite a bit as an organization. We try to measure twice to cut once, and everybody felt good about this. But we just said as an organization that we were only going to get into it to win it."
This is the same general manager who, up until this week, was prepared to enter a critical year with the unproven Kyle Orton as his quarterback. He's the same guy who has tried to get it done with Jim Miller and Kordell Stewart and Rex Grossman and Brian Griese. Jerry Angelo is the same man who chose a defensive coaching overhaul this winter over replacing some members of his aging defense. And a few people are still wondering how he expects his passing game to succeed with Devin Hester and Earl Bennett as his starting receivers.
Angelo, however, has made clear since the end of the 2008 season quarterback was his primary focus. That he stood by Orton for the ensuing three months generated further questions about his judgment, but he deserves credit for recognizing the rarity of Cutler's availability and taking full advantage.
"You can't minimize the importance of the position," he said. "We've talked about that. I know personally that's been something that's been my goal for the organization, and I felt that this was the right thing to do."
Shocking, but true.
|AP Photo/Paul Sancya|
|Kyle Orton torched the Lions with a career-high 334 yards passing.|
Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert
DETROIT -- I did a quick count Sunday afternoon as I left the locker room. I've covered 20 Lions games since 1999, a representative sample that I think gives me the authority to say they're as bad now as they have been at any point in the past 10 years.
We'll get into the status of Jon Kitna -- the team said back spasms, not performance, forced him out of the game at halftime -- and fill you in on a colorful postgame interview with receiver Roy Williams.
First, however, it's only sporting to admit -- yes -- the Bears are the class of the NFC North. While the Lions weren't competitive after the first quarter, the Bears deserve credit for producing the most complete performance of a division team this season.
Five weeks into 2008, Chicago is the only NFC North team with a winning record. Sunday, its defense forced two turnovers -- not bad considering it was on the field for only 56 plays -- while limiting the Lions to 12 first downs and 185 total yards. And the offense rolled up 425 yards even though their most productive skill position player, tailback Matt Forte, managed only 36 yards on 15 carries.
The Bears are 3-2 and have yet to play a division game at Soldier Field. It's still very early, but in essence the division title now goes through Chicago.
"Our goal is about getting on top of the division and staying there," coach Lovie Smith said.
The Bears seemed to be reeling two weeks ago after an overtime loss to Tampa Bay, a defeat that dropped them to 1-2. Since then, they have followed a newly aggressive offense to an early lead Sept. 28 over Philadelphia and Sunday in Detroit.
"We feel if we execute, that's the kind of offense we can be on a consistent basis," quarterback Kyle Orton said. "We feel like we're in a good spot."